“It’s happening again, it’s happening again, Queens Park Rangers, it’s happening again!”
What a night at Craven Cottage last night. I’ll admit that I haven’t been to the Cottage that much having grown up in Belfast and now living in Glasgow. This was only my third visit and, as a friend pointed out before the match, I haven’t had the best of experiences having watched a defeat to Swansea in 2011 and then a humbling to Brentford in our last West London derby at home last April. However, now I can finally say that not only have I seen a win at the Cottage, but I got to see one of the best performances Fulham have put in over the last number of seasons!
We controlled things right from the beginning and played like a team brimming with confidence. Fulham look to finally have a squad that has both depth and quality. The additions that have been made over the summer have shown that Kit Symons has a very good understanding of this league. Yes, he still has a lot to learn tactically but he has put together a very solid squad. If the tactics are right this season surely Fulham will be challenging for one of the top six spots come May.
There are some things that I made note of last night. First of all Fulham’s retention of the ball was much better that it was last season. Too often the team give the ball away so cheaply or else just punt it up the pitch aimlessly. Last night they pinged the ball about the pitch right from the defence to the attack. Fulham looked very comfortable playing possession football and it was great to watch. We also played at a very high tempo and got a reward for it in the amount of chances that were created. All of the goals came from good team work and the third in particular came from a lot of short, fast passes with movement that just completely opened up the QPR defence.
Secondly, Fulham are playing high pressure football when the opponent has the ball. I vividly remember the Brentford game last season were pretty much all of their goals came from not closing down players and continuing to step off. Whether you are a striker, midfielder or a defender, if you continue to step off your opponent than you make it very easy for them to attack. Last night Fulham played it perfectly in that any time QPR had the ball, no matter where they were on the pitch, they had one or two Fulham players giving them no space or time on the ball. If you give teams space then you are asking for trouble and it was too often the case last season. The second goal last night was a classic example of how successful high pressing can be. Giving the defenders no time on the ball resulted in a mistake that Ben Pringle gleefully took advantage of.
Thirdly, Fulham are showing the kind of determination that we used to see under Roy Hodgson. Even at 4-0, we were pushing forward and trying to add to the score. McCormack looked like he was on a mission for a hat-trick while both wing-backs were continuing to make runs forward into injury time. Admittedly, the game had a bit of a training game feel to it for periods in the 2nd half but whenever the opportunity arose both Husband, Fredericks and then Voser showed the desire to make something happen.
Fourthly, Fulham finally have players who can put a good delivery into the box. Both Husband and Fredericks showed that they have the ability to find the likes of Dembele and McCormack in front of goal while Cairney and O’Hara both have the vision to thread balls through the defence. We aren’t a one dimensional team anymore, we have options to play the ball through patiently or to play with pace from the wing-backs and put the ball on to the head of one of our strikers. This sort of versatility will be hugely important for a promotion push.
Finally, Fulham have found a thriving partnership up front in McCormack and Dembele. How good was Dembele last night? He was completely unplayable, just as he was throughout the first half of the Blackburn game. The QPR defence just couldn’t handle him. He even showed his ability to know when to drop deep and put a tackle in and when to sit high and be a focus for attack. We can’t take away any importance from his early goal, it could have been a different outcome if he hadn’t given us a lead after two minutes. Given his age, it is likely that he is just going to continue to get better, especially if he gets a proper run in the side and learning from McCormack. McCormack also had a great game. We saw the poacher side to him last night again, particularly with his second goal. He was probably disappointed in himself after a few costly misses on Tuesday night, but he made up for it against QPR. What was great to see was that he showed the fans exactly what it meant to him getting those goals, fist pumping before signalling to the crowd to keep the noise up. It was so encouraging to see.
In general it was a superb performance that was enjoyed throughout the club by Shahid Khan, the Kit Symons, the players and the fans. We couldn’t really have asked for more on the night and the bragging rights are finally back where they belong. Roll on Tuesday night were hopefully another 3 points awaits against Wolves and Fulham can continue to rise up the table.
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